CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) -- Cyber security is a big concern after millions of people had their data exposed from the Equifax data hack. That was just the latest attack in the wake of Yahoo's 2013 data breach that impacted over three billion users.
As many people work to prevent these attacks from happening again, the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) is finding new ways to train students in cyber security education. A new $500,000 dollar grant is making it possible for UCA to become a leading institution in cyber technology.
The money will be used to create a cyber range; a computer system that will teach students to identify cyber-attacks and defend against them. The announcement of the new technology was made on Wednesday during a press conference at the Arkansas State Capitol. Governor Asa Hutchinson was impassioned as he announced the cutting edge educational technology coming to UCA.
“The threat from cyber crime, cyber warfare and other cyber threats is very real,” said Hutchinson. “It has the focus of our national government and has the focus of industry.”
Governor Hutchinson said the new cyber range will continue to help Arkansas become a national leader in computer sciences and coding.
“We are leading,” said Hutchinson. “We’re using cutting edge technology and putting it in the classroom for the benefit of our students.”
Dr. Stephen Addison, UCA’s Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, said the range is a rare tool and the only one of its kind because it will be specifically designed for educational purposes.
“Just as the telescope transformed astronomy and the microscope transformed biology, the range is the tool that can transform cyber security,” said Addison.
The range will be able to simulate different types of computer networks that are just like real-life networks. Students from K-12 to college level will learn how to attack and defend against cyber threats.
“Just like you develop your golf skills on a driving range and you improve your cyber skills on a cyber range,” said Addison.
The new range will be especially useful to students interested in the upcoming bachelors program in cyber security expected to begin at UCA by the fall of 2018. Addison said that he expects students to flock to the new program because of the jobs available in the cyber security field. He said recent estimates by Homeland Security show there will be a million open jobs in cyber security fields that UCA graduates could help fill.
“They will be in great demand at places like the NSA, Homeland Security, Walmart, Amazon, and Dillard’s,” said Addison. “Anyone involved in e-commerce will need these graduates and they will all be highly skilled.”
UCA will partner with AETN to help develop and disseminate content and programming to support UCA's cyber range and help get the word out about it. The range is expected to be ready for use by this upcoming spring semester.